Finger Lickin' Good or is it?

Yesterday I learnt about a KFC ad which was creating a lot of cross-continental drama. Check out the video below if you have not seen it yet. The video was created by KFC Australia as part of its WI vs Australia cricket series campaign. In it, a white Aussie cricket fan is surrounded by what the video refers to as "awkward black people" (???) and, can take a look

Now KFC America managed to see this ad, and the ad was immediately deemed racist, heads rolled and the Aussies yanked the offending ad off the air and off its electronic channels.

I can see where KFC America would have an issue with the ad. The stereotype of black Americans and their perceived love for fried chicken is a long standing one and perhaps not the most pleasant. I am Trini, and as far as I know, we don't have such a stereotype here. I know I personally hate when Americans all think we all wear tie dyed shirts and drink from coconuts and lay on a beach all day, but not much fried chicken stereotypes. Aussies apparently don't understand the drama with the ad either, and saw it as just a guy offering some West Indians some KFC. An Aussie explained the ad would be relevant whether the Aussie was trapped alone among a sea of Englishmen, Pakistanis or South African fans.

They claim it aims to show that KFC is a crowd pleaser among people of any background. The West Indian fans did not seem to be hostile towards Mick, the dude in the ad. If the ad was a REAL depiction of West Indian fans then this ad would have worked and made some sense. That is, these West Indian fans look excited and happy to be in Australia supporting their team. When is the last time you saw an excited West Indian cricket fan? They should look DEPRESSED. The ad should go like this -

Mick sits in sea of angry, depressed looking West Indians and decides to bring out the ultimate crowd pleaser - some KFC. lol..

Now...though I personally as a West Indian don't find the offering of the KFC offensive, cause Trinis for sure love some KFC and are proud of the fact that our Independence Square branch is apparently a global leader in sales. There is a regional KFC Cup competition - not because KFC thinks black people loves fried chicken, but because KFC supports regional cricket. But I find it hard to believe that global marketers are so naive that they did not know about the stereotype and different things in the short ad also makes one question this alleged cluelessness. 

There is the depiction of the 2 parties involved - Mick, who seems frustrated by the loud, raucous West Indians. Why is Mick in the minority if he is in Australia and the West Indies are NOT the home team? Why couldn't the ad be the other way around - with Mike, a West Indian, offering the loud, raucous Aussies the chicken? Or a group of loud Aussies with a group of loud West Indians in a bit of cricket rivalry and some random peacemaker bringing out the chicken and both groups of fans eating the chicken and high-fiving over it?

The ad itself if looked at from an American concept is definitely racially insensitive, and though the notion that this clip would offend some people never occurred to the marketing team at KFC Australia, it just highlights the point that marketing cannot ever be generic. Yes, Oz is far away but really, with social media, television, email and all the technology you have, while I can understand whether some housewife sitting at home may not know about African Americans and this chicken stereotype, I cannot understand a global communicator, working for an AMERICAN franchise not being culturally aware. I highly doubt that one dude came up with this idea and decided to run with it. Story boards must have been created, concepts tested among a group of people, with people outside of the team. Seeing that it was supposed to be a "light reference to West Indians", were there any independent reviewers to determine whether West Indians would "ketch the joke"? So basically, KFC Australia is trying to peddle the story that noone on the whole team caught on that this ad may not go over well with the bosses in the US?
I am laughing over my Cheerios with that one, eh. So in the context - a white Aussie cricket fan offering West Indian fans some spicy KFC - is the ad racist? Aye, last cricket match I went to, the bucket of KFC was a hit with the crew!  But in a global marketing and marketing research context - definitely. Something is not right with the whole explanation from KFC Australia. Other things are wrong with the ad, from my West Indian perspective, outside of the poor misjudged chicken.

The various global contexts have to be taken into consideration when developing ads, promotions, even brand names. I recall a conversation where a Venezuelan gentleman, on work assignment in Trinidad, was adamant that he did not wish to lease a Prado,  I believe it was. When asked why, he said that "prado" was apparently a slang term for a man masturbating. I doubt Trinis ever thought of that because men puff their chests in the driver's seats of their Prados on the nation's highways. But the vehicle does exist on Venezuelan roads, just under a different name so as to not alienate the market for which the vehicle seems to be targeted. I doubt Toyota knew about this before, but they knew well enough not to try to sell the thing as Prado in Caracas.

And you would find that different companies do in fact have different products to meet the needs of different markets. The same goes for how we communicate with those we are aiming to interact with. As a global company, this ad was bound to reach America and cause the inevitable fallout. Let's get real KFC Australia. Did you think you could keep this only on Aussie television? Have you ever heard of YouTube? Thinking outside the box has to now mean, not just being distinctly creative, but also being globally sensitive and aware, especially if your brand is a global brand.

Though I really doubt that the strength of the KFC brand has been affected much by this incident. It has inevitably caused extreme embarrasment for the Aussies and I am sure there are video conferences and some finger pointing and maybe some pink slip writing going on down under, but Mick will still be handing out KFC chicken somewhere to someone else, though let's hope he is not plastered across the media while doing it.


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